Tale – Ireland

“There is this story about this guy who had a pregnant wife. One day when she was almost due, the husband went out on horseback to pick up the nurse or midwife. Anyway since he was a carpenter or something he bought some nails and then when he was riding back he cursed because the nails were irritating him. Suddenly he found his wife lying in the middle of the forest unconscious and they had to pick her up and bring her back. By the time they brought her back she almost died, but she didn’t and he learned his lesson not to curse again”

To my informant, this folktale was told to her when she was a child. Although both of her parents are Irish, she grew up in Zimbabwe and had learned this story from her grandparents. As the grandparents had passed away, my informant claims that many parts of this story was missing but was a popular tale in Irish culture. She had emphasised that she had left out many parts and that the tale could vary from region to region. Many tales that were told by her grandparents had an entertainment purpose. This story however was one that involved less mythical creatures such as leprechauns and thus is very important to her in that she took a keen interest in what was more realistic. The tale is also important to her in that it has an educational aspect. My observation of this is that it follows a lot of Propprian elements, such as the violation of a code and the happy ending. In the tale of course the character, just like the reader or whoever listens to the story, learns that one should be careful about what they say and wish for. My informant stressed however that this story is told light-heartedly and with humour and therefore bears elements that don’t make Propp’s ideas of structure. The publication I discovered this story in, did indeed contain humorous aspects in that the husband nearly stabs his wife with a pitchfork. My observation is that Irish tradition, compared to my German tradition, uses a lot of tales to teach lessons whilst the Germans merely use short proverbs.


Glassie, Henry. Irish Folktales. 1985. Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

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